Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think

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In this illuminating and groundbreaking new book, food psychologist Brian Wansink shows why you may not realize how much you’re eating, what you’re eating–or why you’re even eating at all.

• Does food with a brand name really taste better?
• Do you hate brussels sprouts because your mother did?
• Does the size of your plate determine how hungry you feel?
• How much would you eat if your soup bowl secretly refilled itself?
• What does your favorite comfort food really say about you?
• Why do you overeat so much at healthy restaurants?

Brian Wansink is a Stanford Ph.D. and the director of the Cornell University Food and Brand Lab. He’s spent a lifetime studying what we don’t notice: the hidden cues that determine how much and why people eat. Using ingenious, fun, and sometimes downright fiendishly clever experiments like the “bottomless soup bowl,” Wansink takes us on a fascinating tour of the secret dynamics behind our dietary habits. How does packaging influence how much we eat? Which movies make us eat faster? How does music or the color of the room influence how much we eat? How can we recognize the “hidden persuaders” used by restaurants and supermarkets to get us to mindlessly eat? What are the real reasons most diets are doomed to fail? And how can we use the “mindless margin” to lose–instead of gain–ten to twenty pounds in the coming year?

Mindless Eating will change the way you look at food, and it will give you the facts you need to easily make smarter, healthier, more mindful and enjoyable choices at the dinner table, in the supermarket, in restaurants, at the office–even at a vending machine–wherever you decide to satisfy your appetite.

From the Hardcover edition.

Customer Reviews:

  • Wow - How easily we are manipulated!
    I have been amazed reading this book at how easy it is to manipulate people into thinking just what you want - in this case, our food is really good and you want a lot of it. And how we trick ourselves - especially those of us raised on a "clean your plate" ethic. I've already starting using some of his tips, and look forward to eating "mindfully" in the future!...more info
  • recommended
    This book is recommended by Tufts. Covers things which I haven't seen covered in one source before....more info
  • Credible, Informative, and Humorous!
    "Mindless Eating" informs readers why they are typically conditioned to, without thinking, eat more than they realized. People eat more when you give them a bigger container. Almost any sign with a number promotion leads us to buy 30-100% more than we normally would. Losing over 1/2 lb./week triggers a metabolism slowdown that undercuts much of the value of the diet.

    Cutting out our favorite foods is a bad idea - cutting back on how much is mindlessly doable. In most studies people can eat 20% less without noticing it. We eat the volume of food we want, not the calories. (Fill your plate with leafy vegetables; drink extra-whipped smoothies - more air.) Strategies include see all you eat - don't go back for 2nds and 3rds. Increasing the variety of food (eg. a buffet) also increases eating - even if it is only increasing the number of colors in an M&M bowl. Leftovers suggest you probably made too much and ate too much as well. Put healthy foods in a visible container (will eat more) and bad foods in a covered (invisible) one.

    Visual cues (eg. passing a 7-11 store, viewing an ad for soup) create more eating. Eating with other encourages greater eating - unless you're already a heavy eater, then it encourages eating less. Don't eat snacks out of a box or package - pour yourself the intended amount and put the container away.

    Positive expectations (name - "home-made;" and environment - china plate) help create food satisfaction.

    Ice requires body heat (expenditure of calories) to melt.

    Behavior modification experts say it takes about one month to break an old habit. Three 100-calorie changes/day can result in up to 30 lbs. less in a year. ...more info
  • Finally, a Sane Look at "Dieting"
    Brian Wanskik, who conducts eating research in a strange experimental restaurant lab, uses his findings well in this fun-to-read book about the subtle sensory cues that encourage us to eat more than we should. Using common sense and science, he debunks all fad diets as creating more harm than good and then proceeds to show that biologically speaking our optimum weight-loss rate should be no more than a half a pound a week so we don't short-circuit our metabolism. Throughout the book, he peppers his chapters with "Reengineering Strategies." If we follow these easy-to-follow strategies, we will cut our calories between 100-200 a day, an amount that Wansik argues it the best for losing weight while keeping our metabolism active. He also devotes time to "Diet Danger Zones," so that we can see the warning signs of destructive eating habits and bad eating environments. While he does debunk most diet books, he makes an exception with The Volumetrics Eating Plan by Dr. Barbara Rolls....more info
  • Fascinating and fun look at the psychology of eating
    Mindless Eating by Brian Wansink is a scientific view at why we eat the way we do and how we can change it to be healthier. I read some of Wansink's work in a recent TIME Magazine article, and I was hooked. I know that our emotions tend to control what and how much we eat, but I had no idea just how much our environment affects it. This is not a diet book, but Wansink offers several ideas for changing your mindset to encourage healthy weight loss. A few facts: we tend to want to eat the same amount of volume of food to feel full. If air or water is added to make the food appear larger, we will eat the same amount and feel just as full. Three year olds will eat until they are sated. Five year olds will eat the amount of food put upon their plate because they assume that it is the appropriate amount. If you are eating with 2 people, you will eat 50% more food than if you were eating alone. If you are eating with 7 or more people, you'll eat 96% more food than if alone. You'll eat more M&Ms in a bowl with 10 colors than with 7 colors. Wansink has done the most amazing experiments to determine why we eat the way we do, and it's a fascinating read. I couldn't put it down, and ended up reading much of it out loud to my husband. Wansink says if we add or subtract 100 calories a day to our diet, our body won't really notice, but it will mean the difference between gaining or losing a half pound a week. If we up the weight loss too much, our metabolism slows down making it harder to lose weight. Great ideas are included to change our eating habits and lose weight without noticing it. 50/50 plating of food: half of the plate should be protein and starch, the other half should be fruits or vegetables. Use smaller plates and taller glasses. I love this one: put ice in your drinking water. Your body has to work to warm up the water so if you drink 8-8 oz glasses of ice water a day, you'll burn 70 calories just from burning up the ice, and you won't even notice it! This is an idea even I can implement! Wansink writes like someone you'd love to invite to dinner for his scintillating conversation, as long as he wasn't watching what you ate!...more info
  • What a great book!
    This book is truly fascinating. It offers so many reasons for why we do what we do. Why do we eat when we are not hungry? Why do we eat something just because it's there, even if it doesn't even taste good? Why do we eat ALL of what is set in front of us at a restaurant, rather than stopping when we are full. When are we full? How do we know? All of these questions, and more, are answered in a truly interesting and accesible way in this book. Once you know what eating cues are and what "eating scripts" you take into different situations, like the movies or Thanksgiving dinner, you can work to overcome them. Wansink also offers ways to rescript your eating to eat less without really knowing it, and how to remove or change the cues around you to eat fewer calories or to eat more better-for-you foods. This is one of the most realistic "diet" books I have ever read - it acknowledges that most diets don't work because you severely restrict so many of the foods that you love, and it offers simple, realistic suggestions of how you how can reprogram your eating habits to lose weight SLOWLY while not feeling totally deprived and not having to do much. Even if you don't need to lose weight or change your eating habits, this book offers a wealth of interesting knowledge that many people can benefit from learning! Definitely recommended!...more info
  • If you are a "Mindless Eater" or have failed with all the diets, buy this book...
    Being a "mindless eater" myself, I related to this book. Book is "breezy" and fun to read unlike many other diet books. It is well researched and has excellent anecdotes. I will be remember many of the passages for some time to come. Rational arguments are presented for why we eat like we do and why many of the fad diets simple don't work for many of us. Excellent book.

    Introduction: The Science of Snacking
    1) The Mindless Margin
    2) The Forgotten Food
    3) Surveying the Tablescape
    4) The Hidden Persuaders Around us
    5) Mindless Eating Scripts
    6) The Name Game
    7) In the Mood for Comfort Food
    8) Nutritional Gatekeepers
    9) Fast-Food Fever
    10) Mindlessly Eating Better
    ...more info
  • Awesome read!
    Excellent book by a supergood author. I've read most of his studies in journals, etc., but this book does a great job of covering everything. Very easy to read--but also makes you think! ...more info
  • Fantastic!!!
    This is a SUPER Book!!!!!! It addresses the core problems people have with eating and shows how to lose weight without losing one's mind.
    It's well written and I enjoyed it so much I'm recommending it to all I know....more info
  • eye-opening book
    Brian Wainsink has made Mindless Eating a necessary read for anyone watching/struggling with their weight. Quick read and highlights many points that are overlooked in society. Recommend this to ANYONE concerned about their weihgt or trying to support someone with weight issues....more info
  • Mindless Research
    I take great exception to the research methods and information used to produce this book. For example, page 21 states that North Dakota is known for three regions: Fargo, Bismarck and Minot, and that no grapes are grown in any of them. That information is completely false. The ensuing pages continue with some discussion of an experimental lab where restaurant patrons were served wine they thought was produced in North Dakota and they subsequently ate less food. The author tries to convince the reader there were perceptions about the ND wine served that factored into the reasons why less food was consumed and provides assumptions rather than genuine research to support these findings. For example, did it occur to the author/lab workers that maybe those patrons had a bad bottle of California wine? How significant was the difference in the amount of food consumed? Details like this are conveniently ommitted and sold to the reader as 'research' in consumer behavior.

    Assumptive research like this might make for some entertaining reading but the bottom line is that the book uses the same, subtle sensory cues used to convince people to try certain diets to also convince people to buy this book. I'll give the author a star for that one. ...more info
  • Fresh Thinking on a much thought about subject
    Wonderful book. Lots of new insights on mindless overeating and ways to overcome it....more info
  • The Best Non-Diet Book
    At the beginning, I wasn't very surprised with the ideas in this book. Everyone knows a smaller plate means you eat less. But it is so much more than that. It had the feel of Freakonomics and The Tipping Point with innumerable studies to explain our relationship with food. After reading Mindless Eating I understand why Doritos just introduced "two-flavor" bags of chips. My high school children really enjoyed listening to the studies and we've been applying them in the kitchen. It turned out to be the best non-diet (but lose weight) book I've read....more info
  • It's not just about what you eat
    I've been a mindless eater for ever. He's right on the mark about how we give so little thought to what goes into our mouths. I've learned to pay close attention to what I eat but I also added exercise to keep my weight off. Amazon sells a great product that gives you the motivation to execise. It's called The Fitness Challenge Board Game...more info
  • Insightful and Funny
    Will you lose a ton of weight if you read this book? Probably not. However, it does provide some great insight and great tips for getting rid of those pesky 100-200 calories a day that end up costing us at least 10 pounds a year.

    It's helped me focus in on a few problem areas that I had, and assisted me in losing about 25 pounds this year. I eat off smaller plates. I avoid buying big boxes of things that might tempt me to over-eat. I understand portions better.

    If nothing else, the book is a quick read with helpful insights and a light-hearted and funny approach.

    ...more info
  • Accessible and useful reading
    Most researchers seem to tend toward the dry and ominous. Not here! This book is an engaging read that's full of fascinating information about food and psychology. This is one of those books where you say "Of course! That explains it!"

    Each chapter covers actual studies of different aspects of eating behaviors and attitudes. At the end of each chapter are real-world strategies anyone can easily and immediately apply to what they've read. (My only quibble is that many studies center around college students, and I'd like to see more stratification among broad age groups.) ...more info
  • Great Tips
    This book does a great job of illustrating how we can pack on the pounds so easily. I loved the great tips on how we can be aware of just how much we eat. Even though I'm a weight watcher and know how to eat, I often overeat without realizing it. One tip I really liked is to NEVER eat out of a box or bag. Even though I try to "count" how much I'm eating out of the box, I still eat too much. Now I pour the snacks into a bowl so I can "see" how much I'm eating. Makes a HUGE difference when the brain registers quantity....more info
  • Mindless Eating
    My Aunt, who is a nutritionist in VT turned me on to reading this book... It's got great information, some stuff will stun you, and other info will really make you think - I'm now quite aware of food marketing, which is helping me make better choices all around - I think this is a fabulous read! ...more info
  • Great book, with actual new information!
    I've read practically every book on dieting ever printed, and this is the first book to offer the novel proposition that you can actually trick yourself into eating less and losing weight in the process. Brian Wansink is a researcher with years and years of study under his belt. He examines what we eat, why we eat, why we eat the amounts that we do, how environment affects our eating habits--all of which occurs below the level of consciousness. It's a fascinating study of the human mind, and all along the way, he offers tips on how to "trick" yourself into eating less, effortlessly. Some of them are pretty well known--smaller plates mean smaller amounts of food--but he also explains why the "economy" of buying in bulk may not be an economy at all. The book is crammed with lots of helpful, NEW information, written in an easy-going, easy-to-read style. Treat yourself to this book....more info
  • A Must Read!
    This is a must read for every consumer and physician who deals with weight issues. It opens ones eyes as to how out of touch we are with what we put into our mouths. Great, quick read....more info
  • What an eye-opener!
    This book was compelling and eye-opening. It was so easy to read and, more importantly, to remember and implement. As a lifetime dieter, I knew the "tricks" about using smaller plates and glasses, but this really made me much more mindful as far as portion sizes. Great read! ...more info
  • A must-read!
    I'm in the process of reading this book now, and I'm having a hard time putting it down. It's excellent.

    It's a very entertaining book that has a wealth of wisdom in it. We are tricked by so many things regarding our eating habits every day. Everything from the size of our plate to the decor in our dining rooms.

    I highly recommend this book (and have to several people in my life!) Definitely a "must read" book.

    ...more info
  • Mmmmmm psychology
    Superb read. The author systematically dissects why people eat the way they do. Something that really struck home was that eating often has nothing to do with how hungry you are...

    Highly recommended....more info
  • a change of approach to dieting
    MINDLESS EATING--this book completely changed how i approach food.Its many stratagies for mealtimes, the detailed and often amusing research make it very easy to read. It offers easy to understand explainations for the tendancies we have to overeat. I like the authors suggestion that we take three things and use them to help ourselves to stay on trak each week. Best of all-- it works!...more info


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